Today, Governor John Bel Edwards delivered remarks at the memorial services for former Governor Edwin Edwards.
As prepared for delivery:
It is with a spirit of prayer and a grateful heart that I join you today in celebrating the rich life and legacy of former Governor Edwin Washington Edwards – a son of Louisiana, the only governor of the ‘Four-term state, a man who looked larger than life. As he once said, he was both a realist and a dreamer who often dreamed of a better world – and worked to make it so. I believe his service to our state and our nation is proof of all he has worked so hard for. In his words, – “without fear of contradiction”– he left his mark on every part of Louisiana. Edwin loved his family, and he certainly loved the people of that state. No one could disagree with this. To his credit, there are many ways he left Louisiana a better place to work and call home. His humble beginnings in the rural parish of Avoyelles, the son of a tenant farmer, taught Edwin many lessons which he carried with him throughout his life. He once said: From the janitor to the chairman of the board, I try to recognize each one for their individual worth. Being able to see others for them, understand where they come from, I have the ability to relate to everyone. And he did.
Now it’s true that we share the same last name, but we have so much more in common. Her mother was a midwife, my mother was a nurse. The two lawyers, both served in the army, he was in the navy and I was in the army. We both emerged from small towns with big dreams to serve the people of our state. We shared the belief that government, at its best, was meant to help others, that education should be available to all children, regardless of race or background, and that we have a responsibility to help the poor. . Government has an important role to play in improving living conditions, creating opportunity and prosperity. He believed that diversity is one of Louisiana’s greatest strengths. In fact, when it came to diversifying state government at the executive level, he was the first governor to make it a priority. Before him, there were no African Americans in the governor’s office or at the cabinet level in state agencies. In short, he wanted his administration to be Louisiana-like, a belief I have and a commitment that I have relied on over and over. He was a big supporter of the University of the South and particularly liked the marching band. We absolutely have that in common. Not surprisingly, one of his wishes was to have them participate in today’s service. By the way, the band did a great job today. Edwin was instrumental in the group’s participation in Pres. The inauguration of Bill Clinton, the new administrative building of the university, the expansion of the AW Mumford stadium and, most importantly, the creation of the Southern University System during the Constitutional Convention of 1973.
We also shared the unwavering belief that access to quality health care is a right that everyone should be able to access, not the privileged few. He supported the charitable hospital system by ensuring that it was adequately funded. Coincidentally, my mom worked at Charity Hospital for decades. He leaves a legacy of working hard to help those who couldn’t help themselves and using his voice to stand up for the poor – those who felt speechless. Edwin, Trina and Eli often visited me and Donna at the mansion. They have always supported us and we will always be grateful to them. I can tell you firsthand how much he loved his family. And Eli was his absolute heart. Edwin’s eyes weren’t big enough to see him. He always brought home cookies from the mansion for Eli.
Like many of you here today, Edwin Edwards has been a part of Louisiana history for our entire lifetimes. In the year I was born, Edwin was a member of the United States House of Representatives serving the 7the Congress District. At the age of 10 (1976), he began his second term as governor. When I started law school at LSU in 1996, Edwin was completing his historic last term as governor.
You know how I know Edwin was smart, witty, charming, never short of words. With him, a sharp line or a funny joke was always on the way. When he was in the room, you knew that. He was both a risk taker and a straight shooter. Edwin always looked at it both ways – the pros and the cons. It was a built-in barometer that served him well throughout his many tenures, from Crowley City Council to Halls of Congress to the Governor’s Mansion. Many have said to the heart of man was respect for all. When it came to political issues, he had “opposition” and not enemies. An accomplished politician, he worked tirelessly to refine his arguments and call on his most adept allies like John Alario to try and win over those who didn’t see things his way. One minute he might have fiercely debated an issue with you, and the next he inquired about your family or offered to share a nice meal. Relationships meant a lot to him. He put people before politics, something else that we share and that we could certainly use more of today.
You know there were only two types of people in our state when it came to Edwin Edwards: those who loved him and those who he thought were just plain wrong about such an honest citizen. . In my opinion, he didn’t just enjoy being a governor – he loved it! In an interview in 2011, Edwin said: “I have been treated with a lot of respect for where I am from and I feel like I have managed to accomplish a lot.”
As we reflect on his legacy, there may be much debate about his greatest contributions to the state – the 1973 Constitutional Convention which led to the adoption of the current state constitution, modernizing the economy. of Louisiana and actively supporting and signing legislation establishing the 8-g (education) Fund into law. The fund was the result of a settlement with the federal government on revenue sharing from offshore oil and gas production. In 1986, the initial value of this fund was $ 540 million; today, its market value is $ 1.4 billion. Over its 30+ years of operation, $ 1.8 billion has been donated to the Board of Regents and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, supporting educational excellence and building capacity across the state. . Some of his other accomplishments included retaining the Saints in New Orleans, restructuring the oil and gas tax, and promoting the cause of civil rights. One thing is for sure, there is NO debate about his commitment to public service and his pride in our state.
He was a man of many talents, including that of writing poetry. In another interview, he shared a poem that ended with the line: May you never know a lonely heart and cherish our meeting from the beginning. His life and his contributions to our great state will always be cherished. To Trina, Eli, Stephen, Victoria, Anna and David, as well as all of her family, friends and staff, Donna and I keep you in our prayers. You have so much to be proud of. Second Timothy 4: 7 says, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Governor Edwards fought the good fight. He has finished his race.
Maybe now when someone refers to me as Governor Edwards, I won’t immediately look for Edwin – but I doubt it. On behalf of the people of this great state, I thank Edwin Edwards for his service based on these deep Cajun roots and a deep love for Louisiana. May he rest in peace. Thank you and God bless you.